Monthly Archives: August, 2018

Making Sense of the World: Unit Studies

August 31st, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 3 comments

Two of my favorite homeschooling years occurred when I used KONOS as the basis of my curriculum. I heard one of the founders of KONOS speak at a homeschooling convention and loved the slogan she used to describe her perspective (which I’m probably not getting exactly right), “God put the wiggle in children, don’t take it out.”

KONOS was based on the idea of integrated unit studies, a concept that I heartily applaud. Each unit had a theme and what we covered in history, science, literature and Bible studies was chosen to fit into that theme. While KONOS was Christian-based, I found it “easy” to adapt because the themes were built on character traits, in Hebrew, what I would call midot.

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It’s a Miserable Life

August 29th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 19 comments

If you were unaware of the inaugural Summit on the Research and Teaching of Young Adult Literature that took place recently in Las Vegas, so was I. If you have pre-teenage and/or teenage children, you can’t afford to be.

This morning’s Wall Street Journal features an article about the summit by author and journalism professor Steve Salerno.   (You need a subscription to read it online.) To anyone has been paying attention, young adult literature is increasingly dark and this summit suggests that things are getting worse. Unless you live off the grid and completely isolated, your children will be exposed to this form of literature. If your children go to school, some of it may very well be required reading.

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I’m resenting always being the designated driver.

August 28th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

As a person who abstains from drinking (for reasons of self-discipline), I am often expected (usually by assumption or without asking) to be the driver for most events and parties with my family and friends.

Does my personal decision not to drink bring with it the responsibility of serving others around me in this manner? Logically, why should others not enjoy themselves at a party (remain sober to drive) if I have already decided not to drink? I sometimes feel “used,” though, because of my personal decision.

Dear Involuntary Designated Driver,

We love how the questions that come into our Ask the Rabbi mailbox make us think. Your question certainly did that.

We would like to expand your question. In many ways it is the same one as the at-home mother whose work-in-an-office neighbor asks her to sign for her packages or let the plumber into her house. We could brainstorm and think of a dozen similar situations. Basically, people are assuming that they are asking another person for something that is no big deal.

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Bloody Beastly Behavior

August 27th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

I cringe whenever I recall the many instances my adolescent pranks and puerile pronouncements cast my parents down to the depths of hopeless gloom.  They had little excuse for optimism about the prospects of their first-born.  But seldom did the white heat of their anger flame more menacingly than when I dismissed myself as an animal.  Admittedly, I had learned to light their fuses so I knew just what to say when Mom reacted to my disgustingly slurping soup out of the bowl by spitting these words at me, “Stop eating your soup like an animal!”  What I said was, “But since I am an animal, it’s okay if I eat this way, right?”  In order not to posthumously ensnare my saintly mother with the government’s Child Protective Services, I’ll leave you in the dark as to what she then did to me.

Not to leave my long-suffering father out of this stroll down memory lane, I recall his reaction to our picnic in the park being marred by a nearby amorous couple’s inappropriately public displays of affection.  “That’s how animals behave,” he exclaimed.  That was a poorly chosen moment for me to disagree with him.  I mildly explained that I thought it was rather charmingly natural that they were indulging their animal instincts.  I think it was the word ‘charming’ that sealed my fate.  Or perhaps it was the approving way in which I uttered the word “natural”.  Either way, the father-son bond became taut and suspenseful for a day or two.

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Cyrus, the Unsinkable Sea Serpent

August 27th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

I read Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent by Bill Peet half a dozen times over the past week. It is a favorite of a seven-year-old granddaughter and she recommended it to her similarly aged cousin. To my surprise, his two-and-a-half-year-old sister enjoys listening to it as well though I wouldn’t have chosen it just for her.   

Cyrus is one of the many books still on our shelves from our children’s early years. It is what I think of as a transition book; it is more complicated and wordy than early readers like The Cat in the Hat, but still short enough to be read aloud in one sitting. It appeals to children who can read and ideally after listening to it and understanding the tale, they soon want to pick it up and read it themselves.

As I read it over and over, I started asking myself why I like it. The book has danger, threats and violence. I don’t normally gravitate to those features. My seven-year-olds are enraptured by it.

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Every Doctor Needs a Mama Bear

August 23rd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 28 comments

I have never been a helicopter mom. I don’t think my children are perfect (though they come pretty close). When they fought with friends, I didn’t assume that they were automatically innocent victims. My children learned how to cook, do the laundry and clean up after themselves at a young age. I have never called a teacher to protest a grade, nor have I written school papers for my kids. I have certainly never shown up at a job interview with one of them, at least past the age of ten.

But there’s a time when enough is enough and this mama bear is ready to go on the warpath. You see, to the utter amazement of my husband and myself, two of our children are in the medical field. Our son is an emergency room physician and our daughter, after a number of years of nursing on a general ward and in the Intensive Care Unit, is now on her way to becoming a nurse anesthetist.

This has given us a bit of an inside view into the medical profession. We have watched our children and their peers work 12 hour shifts and more. We have seen them heartbroken by patients’ deaths. We have sensed their frustration at giving their all to save a patient who they know will be back in the hospital soon after release because she won’t change her self-destructive behavior. We have watched in awe as these doctors and nurses pushed themselves beyond human limits to help those in need. We cheered as they got  jobs with good salaries that let them start paying back the exorbitant amount of debt they accumulated while training.

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Patty Hearst and Paul Manafort

August 22nd, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

I was raised with a respect for teachers, police, government – even the United Nations. Part of maturing was, sadly, recognizing that there were phenomenal teachers and incompetent ones; there were noble policemen and corrupt ones; principled statesmen and conniving politicians. As for the United Nations, well, maybe at some point it had a purpose, but it has long become a snake’s den.

The Patty Hearst trial in 1976 was another brick in building a tower of cynicism. At an age when I should have been idealistic I remember feeling, correctly or not, that her conviction came less from her actions or the facts and more as a punishment for being born to a wealthy and prominent family. These feelings of the corruption of justice are surfacing again with Paul Manafort’s convictions and the Michael Cohen saga.

I don’t think these men have lived blameless lives, but that is irrelevant. I think that if endless money and time was devoted to finding illegal acts in any president’s confidants, facts to convict them would be found. Actually, few citizens could withstand such scrutiny. The defunct USSR convicted anyone they wanted to punish and the stench of that type of corruption is present here. When justice searches to punish rather than to treat everyone equally, no one is safe.

 

My father is having an affair!

August 21st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

On a day in March, 2018, I found out that my father was having an affair. The identity of the woman at the time was unknown to myself, although I did suspect it was my aunt. It took me several months of fighting myself on what to do with the information, as I did not want to harm my mother emotionally with it. But after much thought I did disclose my findings to her. However, I did not tell her I suspected the woman was her own sister. My mother had her doubts about the whole thing and I know she was in denial in order to protect herself from the hurt.

Today my sister and I after some further investigation found out that the woman is indeed my mother’s own sister. I am in anguish and torment because of the findings and do not know what to do.

This goes against every teaching we were brought up with. I’m disappointed and feel pain and sorrow. Should we keep this secret to ourselves or should we tell my mom? I thought about speaking to my father about it, but he gets aggressive and tells me to stay out of his marriage because he doesn’t involve himself in mine. Please help!

Kayla

Dear Kayla,

You and your sister are in tremendous pain. The structure on which your lives were built, including values and trust in your parents has been shaken. You are angry, hurt, disappointed, betrayed, confused and if we may say so, probably a little vengeful. That is all natural. But natural is not necessarily right.

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Get a Whiff of Winning

August 21st, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 17 comments

I really hope that my children think of their childhood with the same sweet nostalgia that I do.  Whenever the Lapin family embarked upon a trip, it was usually with at least fifteen suitcases, all of which needed to be loaded into our van.  Though I could have done it myself quite quickly, we patiently waited while our young son laboriously loaded every piece of luggage, many of which were larger than he was.

My wife always shared the preparations for the Sabbath with our daughters, assigning some children to set the table while others cleaned the house until it shone. Planning menus and cooking were group efforts. Especially when the kids were very young, she could have prepared the house and meals for our family and our guests far more quickly herself.   

By contrast, researchers recognize that generally, American children ignore or resist appeals to help. According to a UCLA study a few years back, compared to other countries and cultures, and even more importantly, compared to how we Americans used to raise children, parents today are focused on what they can do for their children and don’t think about what their children can do for them. 

Were my wife and I taking unseemly advantage of free labor or doing our children a favor? Let’s look at a precedent.

From the moment they left Egypt the Israelites grumbled about almost everything. 

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Up, Down and All Around: A Lesson in Prepositions and Life

August 21st, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

It was a brilliant idea. I would introduce prepositional phrases to my children through a visit to the playground. They would have a great time going up the ladder, down the slide, through the tunnel and around the trees. Just about everything they did could be utilized for a fun and memorable grammar lesson.

Or at least, that was the plan. The outing steadily deteriorated via one bee sting, one bleeding knee and multiple squabbles. Another brilliant homeschooling idea hit the dust.

It is ever so much easier to be a wonderful parent before you have children, an inspiring teacher before you have students and an effective politician when you are a candidate, before you have responsibility and authority.

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